Classical albums always provide an interesting challenge. They are excruciatingly long, and normally would have been much better live than recorded. However, if you get yourself doing something else (such as reading or typing a, say, music review), they can be pretty wonderful. In that mindset, a live album should be pretty enjoyable.
This album comes to us as a part of the list of credits to David Frost who was nominated for Producer of the Year, Classical. Like I said, I'm hell bent on completing every album nominated this year. Hell. Bent.
And on that note, let's do this!!
"Crown Imperial (arr. J. Kreines for brass): Crown Imperial: Coronation March (arr. J. Kreines)" is the full credited title of our first track. If nothing else, these albums take u enough space on reviews that I don't have to write nearly as much as usual! This being a brass album, I've got the volume turned down just a bit, if for nothing else than respect to my roommates to do work 9-5's. The clarity with which we can identify this as a march, yet have it remain something new and unfamiliar, is somewhat astounding to me. There is a small percussion section as well, but to really bring a proper party of a coronation, this is of course appropriate. The band moves well together, actually making the track feel more like a parade than a record.
Next up is "Sacrae symphoniae (excerpts) (arr. E. Crees for brass): Sacrae Symphoniae No. 6: Sonata Pian e forte (arr. E. Crees)." This is beautifully subdued at the start, almost mind-blowing when you think of the power that can come from an entire brass section at full force. The delicate beauty of this track is really something else. While it builds with intensity later on, it remains something just sweet to hear throughout, un-jarring and melodic.
"Canzoni et sonate (arr. E. Crees for brass): Canzon duodecimi toni a 10 (arr. E. Crees)" has the incredible trumpet line that just comes in for a moment, then fleets off. The featured soloists here are John Hagstrom and Christopher Martin. The rest of the music is just as powerful as you'd expect, but those small little sections are what, I feel, make the piece most enjoyable. If I'm not mistaken, there are some flutes in there as well, but I could be hearing things. The fleeting trumpet trills are just enchanting (and where else but classical pieces do you get to use the word 'enchanting'??? "Canzon VII (arr. R.P. Block): Canzon septimi toni a 8 (No. 2) (arr. R.P. Block)" is the following track, still a part of "Canzoni et sonate." The trumpets are still playing a large part, but in not as lively a way. This time things are largely as expected - bold and stunning from the entire section together, building and building a great finish.
One one its own again: "Passacaglia and Fugue in C minor, BWV 582 (arr. E. Crees for brass): Passacaglia and Fugue in C minor, BWV 582 (arr. E. Crees)." This comes in so lightly I can barely hear it. The scales that these instruments go up and down as they build sounds like a bunch of finger exercises and warmups all layered on top of each other. This is actually a really dynamic piece, ranging in tone and emotion throughout, and I can only imagine it's to tell some sort of story. The hassles of listening to a recording are that, unless you are fully engrossed, it's hard to put that story to it.
"Lincolnshirt Posy (arr. T. Higgins for brass): I. Lisbon" beings a six track series. This first portion is quiet, serving as an intro of sorts. If brass can be romantic, I'd say the first thirty seconds are that entirely. Maybe that's because this is sort of reminding me of something out of Les Miserables. "II. Horkstow Grange" builds the intensity of something happening - the conflict perhaps. The drums give a sense of something coming, while the flourish around the 2:15 mark makes it confusing if that's a good or bad thing. It's not until close to the end that we hear something a little disjointed... "III. Rufford Park Poachers" has got to be where we hear something a little darker. It's like there's some innocence to their actions, at least probably in their heads, but the attack that some in around the halfway point tells a different side of things. There's a slow, steady, horrible chase happening.
The next portion is "IV. The Brisk Young Sailor." I have not been this engrossed in a classical group of songs in a while - making up stories to music is fun! This gives the lighter relief portion of the group, with sailing on the sea and the sense of adventure woven throughout. It's always fun to hear a theme for a particular character (think Peter and the Wolf and you'll get it). I could see this one start with shots on him and zoom out to show his exciting ship life. "V. Lord Melbourne" does the same sort of justice for another character. He's a bit more haughty, and I'd imagine more powerful and intimidating. His roll in the story... I can't tell here if he's a good or bad guy, so perhaps he's just the voice of reason in all of this. We end with "VI. The Lost Lady Found." Thereis a sense of triumph here, as the trumpets lead things in. I don't know if there are more portion to this that just aren't included on the album we're listening to, but assuming this is the ending, I guess this was the end goal. That, or we've just listened to something along the lines of Chaucer and there have been different stories going on throughout. Either way, it ends out on a celebratory note of coming home.
"Sensemaya (arr. B. Roberts for brass): Sensemaya (arr. B. Roberts)" is the next track. Sitting at seven minutes long, it starts with low tones over a just slight 'dripping water' sound from a wooden block. Anthony Kniffen is the noted musician for this one, though I'm not sure on which. Either way, this sounds like something from Looney Tunes - an old cartoonish overlay track as Elmer and Bugs are at it again. The movements are very precise and crisp throughout, creating intensity and as close to chaos as it can get without crossing the line. The whole thing sounds like it takes a lot of air and effort on behalf of the band.
Our final three songs are a part of a set. "Romeo an Juliet, Op. 64 (excerpts) (arr. J. Kreines for brass): I. The Montagues and the Capulets" starts things off, of course playing the intro to the story of the star-crossed lovers. This one is full of spitting hate between the rivals. There's not an ounce of love lost throughout this theme, which only speaks of impending war and manipulative schemes. "IV. Dance" is, by my guess, where the kids meet. There's confusion abound, and a movement for those on the floor. It's downright cute, lacking the romance I may or may not have been expecting. The final track of the series and album is "VII. The Death of Tybalt," which seems much too playful for the first minute. The turn into the actual fight that it seems to take is clear though, with notes becoming sharp and crisp. There is tension being released in small doses, and not pleasantly. What a way to end an album.
Added to My Playlist:
- "Sacrae symphoniae (excerpts) (arr. E. Crees for brass): Sacrae Symphoniae No. 6: Sonata Pian e forte (arr. E. Crees)"
- "Canzoni et sonate (arr. E. Crees for brass): Canzon duodecimi toni a 10 (arr. E. Crees)"
It's always equally hard to write a closing summary of a classical album as it is to know how to approach it. For a live album, this sounded entirely studio-recorded, but that's probably just because of a lack of audience reaction. The sound was incredibly captured though, really shining through a spirit in the music. If nothing else, I got to make up fun little stories and visuals in my own head to the music!